BOSTON -- Two senior staff members at the Massachusetts Industrial Finance Agency announced their resignations last week.

Chief operating officer Margaret Kelleher submitted her resignation last Friday and will leave MIFA at the end of this week. Kelleher, who has been with the agency since 1989, has accepted a position as a vice president at State Street Bank and Trust Co.

Kelley Rice, MIFA's director of communications, submitted her resignation last week and spent her final day at MIFA last Friday. Rice, who was with MIFA since 1986, will join the communications staff of Marisa Lago, Boston's chief economic development officer, next Monday.

Rice and Kelleher are the second and third top MIFA officials to resign in the last three months. Earlier this summer, the general counsel at the agency, Thomas O'Brien, left to join the city's economic development office as Lago's chief of staff.

Beth Brown, a spokesperson for the agency, declined to comment on the resignations.

Neither Kelleher nor Rice were available for comment yesterday, but several sources said their resignations were tied to the new leadership at MIFA.

Last February, Gov. William F. Weld chose prominent local attorney Burton M. Harris to replace outgoing executive director Daniel O'Connell.

Harris, 55, was a partner at the Boston law firm of Bingham, Dana & Gould. His experience prior to joining MIFA was limited to the representation of corporate and financial clients. Sources familiar with MIFA's operations have criticized Harris for his management style, saying morale at the agency has suffered since he took over.

The staff's once congenial and cooperative spirit has been destroyed by Harris' negative attitude toward municipal market players and the agency's board of directors, sources both inside and outside the agency said.

Additionally, several staff members said, recent work assignments from Harris ran counter to the agency's previous goals.

In an interview last month, Harris defended himself and the activities of the agency and said many of the complaints are typical of a change in leadership.

Recently, several sources said, MIFA tried to find out if a legal opinion was necessary for all of the agency's bond work. Several bond lawyers in Boston derided such a policy and said that without a legal opinion, issues such as future tax exemption for securities and the legality of bond-funded projects could go unanswered.

Joseph D. Blair, former executive director at MIFA, said that Kelleher "was easily one of the best marketing people" he has ever worked with.

Blair hired Kelleher when he was serving as deputy director.

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